Effective leaders make their vision a reality by sharing it with others and gaining others commitment to achieve it. The purpose of this article is to discuss two ways empowering leaders make their vision a reality:
- They are very clear about their vision of the future organization; and
- They have a driving passion to achieve it.
Getting Clear About Their Vision
Great leaders are not more talented than the majority of people, but they are generally more clear about what they want and what their vision of a new and improved organization looks like. In our consulting practice over the years, we have worked with many leaders to help them clarify their vision. When they are unclear about their vision, it makes it difficult to share it with others or to ask them to work toward it. Sometimes it takes a lot of thinking and discussion to clarify the vision of the future. In other cases, leaders intuitively know what they want and are able to express it. Either way, when leaders are able to identify their vision, and make it concrete for others, it opens the door to share it with them and ask for their commitment to make it happen.
Consider the power of a clear vision: Abraham Lincoln dreamed that his countrymen could be free from slavery before he, as President, helped the country stop the practice of slavery. Similarly, a great architect will create a blueprint of a building way before he begins to build it. The first step for leaders desiring to achieve their vision is to outline and simplify it so they can share it with others.
Following are a few questions that help leaders define their vision:
- What is my role in the organization?
- What capabilities and skills do I bring to the organization?
- What do I believe will make this organization great? What results will we need to achieve?
- What capabilities and skills will the team/organization need to develop?
- How can I contribute to making the organization great?
- What will need to change to accomplish this vision?
Once their vision is clear, empowering leaders also focus on outcomes as they share their vision with others. When they identify what will be different in the new organization and what results it will achieve, they turn people loose to begin to operationalize it, as they set goals and objectives to achieve the desired results. This process of translating vision to results, goals, and objectives, allows employees to see how they can achieve the vision and empowers them to take responsibility for moving it forward.
Cultivating Passion for the Vision
Empowering leaders have a driving passion to achieve their vision. They don’t allow circumstances or obstacles to determine their success, but instead focusing tremendous will to achieve goals and objectives which will move their vision forward and achieve desired results.
It is one thing for leaders to have passion burning inside them; it is quite another to ignite that same passion in others. When the organization starts working toward the vision, there will be challenges and setbacks. Effective leaders are determined and don’t give up easily when resistance and opposition appear. They use their vision to help others rise above adversity, setbacks and even failures. They do this by capturing the hearts and minds of other leaders and implementers, and inspiring them to believe in the vision and find new ways to achieve goals and accomplish more.
President John F. Kennedy articulated a vision that mesmerized the United States with his “Man on the Moon” address in 1961, he knew that the vision would have to transcend partisanship, politics, and military interests to generate the sustained motivation necessary to accomplish such a feat. In his own words he said: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” (May 25, 1961)
Though Kennedy did not live to see his vision realized, the prospect of putting a man on the moon captured the hearts and minds of this nation. His challenge extended beyond his administration and unified the efforts of countless scientists, politicians, and government contractors. That inspiring, faith-demanding vision functioned to make the American Space program the most advanced in the world by 1969. This success also typifies many aims of visionary and empowering leaders: cooperative effort and accountability, motivation that outlives the leader’s presence within the organization, and potential accomplishment that cements a collective purpose and identity. Nearly a decade later, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, his statement echoed the transcendent scope of what the country sought to do: “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”
Empowering leaders are very clear about their vision for the organization and move forward with confidence. As they share their vision with others in the organization, they focus on outcomes, and ask others to help achieve the goals and objectives leading to the vision. Empowering leaders also have a driving passion to achieve their vision. When difficulties and resistance appear, they move forward with determination, and use the vision to overcome obstacles by inspiring other leaders and implementers to believe in the vision and find new ways of achieving goals and accomplishing more. When others in the organization believe in the vision and find new ways of accomplishing more, the vision begins to live and take on a life of it’s own. This is the power of empowering leadership.